Archive for March, 2008

VM Development

I do my Windows development on a beast* of a Bootcamp'd Mac Pro tower and that works just fine, or it would if every project I worked on were virgin territory, untouched by human hands. Unfortunately, some of what I work on has been touched by human hands, and they're all thumbs. I suppose it's coming from an agency background, but it's strange to me how many people act as though their site/ app is the only thing on a box. In celebration of my MSDN discs finally arriving (well worth the six months' wait, the 100 emails and phone calls and general frustration, thanks for asking), I built a VM in the background while I worked today. I couldn't get SQL Server 2008 to install (because I am dumb and don't understand what they mean when they describe all the account logins), but everything else is, for better or worse, current MS tech: Server 2003, VS2008, SQL 2005. I even threw IE8 and Silverlight on for laughs.

Then immediately put Firefox on as IE8 . . . I don't understand how it gets things so wrong. They've added a bunch of features from Firefox, but they can't simply copy them because then people would notice they copied them. So they copy them and screw them up. Firefox 2 added the yellow URL bar to let you know when you're on a secure URL. Firefox 3 adds a little green section to show you who owns the SSL certificate so users are (theoretically) better protected against phishing. If you like that, IE thinks you will love their idea: everthing but the actual domain in the URL bar is greyed out so it's barely legible. Given the cool kids have been talking for 3-4 years about how the URL bar is the new command line and frameworks like Rails go to great pains to make the full URL informative, this is a fantastic way to fuck that up. A+. And it just goes from there. Everything feels off-brand. All that's missing is some Engrish.

Either way, now I have a nice new VM image I can re-use for development on projects:

  • SQL Server
  • Visual Studio
  • Tortoise SVN
  • Launchy
  • Taskbar Shuffle

And a little here and there. As soon as I was finished, I sent a copy up to my Amazon S3 account so I could get at that VM from any machine anywhere in the world. As it slowly ticked that 12 gigs into the cloud, I realized I'd just blown 50 cents. Where do I ever go? Stupid bloggers trying to make coding sound rock'n'roll.

* A beast to me anyway. Not compared to the 4 proc, 64 gigs of memory monsters the cool Mac kids have for opening what must be some massive Youtube videos

Nothing Says "Quality You Can Rely On"

Quite like the SQL Server 2008 beta program's header image


Location Awareness

Yahoo announced FireEagle yesterday, a set of twin APIs for letting you send information about your current location and for letting other applications consume that information at various levels of granularity. The announcement below is worth your time if you're interested in this sort of stuff.

This idea came together for me while reading Halting State by Charlie Stross. The book is about MMORP games that take place in the real world, not on a console or at a computer. They use visual overlays or messages to cell phones to make the game work. Other overlays exist; a policeman wearing his goggles sees waypoints and indicators on the street for directions, as well as information about various buildings: e.g., who lives there, crimes committed, etc. Let me say at this point that my fascination and interest in this stuff requires me to both muzzle and kennel the privacy watchdog side.

Reading the book I was struck not by what a great idea that was but how close we are to it. Google and Amazon already provide some of that data for big cities. The iPhone and similar devices can send your location and consume feedback in a usable way. The real trick, as always, won't be getting data, but sifting through the data for useful bits. If nothing else, it'll be an interesting way to meet people. There are a number of Metafilter and Sportsfilter members in New Hampshire, but I've never met any of them.  Given Metafilter supports Friend of a Friend markup, what's to stop a service from texting me to tell me another site member is within a few hundred feet in downtown Portsmouth? (Again, try not to think of the privacy implications-- if you haven't committed a crime, what do you have to hide, right?)

The other thing I got out of the video was a new word, spime: "a theoretical object that can be tracked precisely in space and time over the lifetime of the object".  I'm off to read Bruce Sterling's original thoughts around the concept.

And hooray for my first proper blog post.

Secret Language of Twins

Where we got "That is good news" from:


A Brief Timeline of Last Night's Improbable Events

  • 3:05am - awakened by dog barking. Roll over.
  • 3:06 - Michelle gets up, saying something's not right as so many other dogs are barking
  • 3:06:20 - "Yeah, there's a cop talking to someone in our driveway. I think he's puking."
  • 3:07 - leave bed, descend stairs to front door
  • 3:07:01 - "Oop, he just ran away!"
  • 3:07:05 - Move to back door, watch cop's flashlight bounce through the backyard, stop at the mess of brush we really should have cleaned out last fall for easier passage of criminal activity
  • 3:07:55 - flashlight disappears
  • 3:10 through 4:00 - listen to dog left in K9 unit barking
  • 4:05 - K9 officer returns and drives off
  • 4:05:01 - fall asleep, immediately dream about a giant black dog with a flashlight at the back door demanding entrance
  • 4:06 - wrestle self awake
  • rest of morning - dog insistent on cataloging every fooprint in the yard


Burn, Baby, Burn

Remember that movie where Clint Eastwood plays a fighter pilot? Yeah, me neither:

It even inspired a decent comment on YouTube:

. . . it's fun to pretend he's playing the same character as in Firefox. Why wouldn't they give the job of stealing a Soviet superplane to the man who won an air war against a giant spider?


UPS letting me know my Rock Band pedal is out for delivery even though EA claims it still hasn't shipped + a slab of Grateful Dead tracks. Along the same lines, this story made me smile as well, though I wonder if such a manager ever existed. It's a great approach to teamwork that applies regardless of discipline.

Retro Done Rite

Justice - DVNO [NEW]
by PeteRock


I can see where this would make a person suicidal. For the last few weeks, I've felt I must have shirked my duties this winter. Judging by the driveways, the house, the road, winter has been winning. We've spent the last two weekends trying to dig out the storm drain; what few drains are block has are connected by pipe apparently underwhelming in diameter, so having a drain just past the driveway feels like a responsibility. Instead, it currently sits under a mound of snow and what has to be three inches of solid ice. The whole thing seemed irresponsible: what had happened in a year that I went from being able to keep everything snow-free to being nearly buried? It wasn't a lack of shoveling. The skin on my hands is my skin from 40 years from now. It would take the most romantic of poets to call it rough hewn. It's cracked, brittle, old. Did the effort drop to old man quality as well?

No. Nothing happened to me. Last year we had two feet of snow at this point. Now we have nine. My favorite Ask Metafilter comment of the season, non-crazy division, was this:

"if it's still below freezing, tie a thread to the end of the icicle and anchor directly below so the drips travel down the line, and it'll quickly form a solid column of ice from your eaves to the ground."

Do they need encouraging? Around here they do that on their own, except, requiring three to four inches of diameter to make the twenty foot trip from eave to ground, gravity comes calling around ten feet and sends the icicle to the ground a bit more quickly than anticipated. Screw you, winter. You can kill me when I'm older.